There are few places I can think of that cause more tension in families than food. My experience may be quite limited, but in that limited experience, I find food to be a place that often leaves us feeling quite out of control, vulnerable, and often even angry. It is definitely true for me. I have struggled with food forever, and I also watched my family struggle with food. My whole family was overweight, except for my brother, who was somehow blessed with a “good metabolism.” It would probably be more right to say that he just didn’t pack it away as fiercely as the rest of us, and we were probably just jealous that he often “wasn’t hungry.” The rest of us ate through our emotions and then judged each other for doing it. My parents became concerned about my weight as I entered puberty. My father “helped” by initiating a strict family diet to get us all on track, while my mother would “comfort” my sadness about the new restrictions with an ice cream soda with pistachio ice cream.
I am sure you can imagine my delight when my wife announced her wish to attempt a family diet. Yes, all of those words are mine, spoken straight from my triggered past. There was no “announcement” and it’s not about a “diet.” But, we do have reasons to be concerned about the food we consume and it’s impact on our health as a family (and the health of the kids). We have a few too many refined sugars in our cabinets and boxed nitrates in our freezer, if you know what I mean. With all the research pointing to how additives and toxins may be affecting our kids, we wonder. As my wife states, shouldn’t we at least try to address it with food before we think about medication.?
I can’t argue there.
Still, I feel the fight brewing inside. It’s not a fight I’ll have with my spouse. I believe in trying the most natural options first. If my daughter can’t tolerate dairy, we should rule that out first. Yet, the kid in me feels the restrictions and judgment and lack of control coming. When it comes to food, it is very hard for me to act as a logical adult.
I know I’m not alone because I see it every day. I work with survivors of domestic violence and we have two residential homes. The three communal kitchens are home to 80% (educated estimate) of conflicts between our survivors. “So-and-so ate my x” and “she-who-must-not-be-named doesn’t clean up after herself” and “this-one uses too much salt” and “that-one ate all the yogurt.” If you come from a relationship or a life when you haven’t had an opportunity to make your own choices, food is often one place where you can exercise some control. In communal kitchens, it’s common to feel powerless.
As I move forward with my wife, believing in looking for solutions which are natural before chemical; how can I, and how can I help my kids, exercise some control when we feel we have none, at least for a time? At work, I let my past angst keep me centered in understanding where our survivors are coming from. We try to turn over control wherever we can, including suggesting possible solutions. We also just try to stay sensitive, knowing this is hard stuff. I can only imagine my kids will need all this too, and perhaps more.
If you’ve been down this road and have any tips as to the “more”, they are welcome.